President Bush and approximately 15 organizations stated their opposition to the University’s admissions policies by filing briefs yesterday with the U.S. Supreme Court, but legal experts say the briefs will not heavily influence the justices who have already formed a stance on race-conscious admissions policies.
The amicus, or friend of the court, briefs will add to the written argument that the Center for Individual Rights, a Washington-based legal firm that is suing the University in the two lawsuits, presented to the Supreme Court yesterday.
In his brief, Bush is expected to specifically address the legality of the University’s admissions policies, but will refrain from denouncing race-conscious policies in general.
Curt Levey, CIR’s director of legal and public affairs, said such an argument affirms that the University’s policies are unconstitutional, even if they promote diversity.
“It makes it even clearer that under any standard, even if you think race can be a factor in admissions, it should be clear that Michigan’s blantant racial preferences are unconstitutional,” Levey said.
The two lawsuits, Grutter v. Bollinger [ital.] and Gratz v. Bollinger challenge the use of race as an admissions factor in the University’s Law School and College of Literature, Science and the Arts, respectively.
University President Mary Sue Coleman defended the constitutionality of the University’s admissions policies in a written statement Wednesday, saying admissions criteria examine the entire background of each applicant.
“We do not have, and have never had, quotas or numerical targets in either the undergraduate or Law School admissions programs,” she said. “Academic qualifications are the overwhelming consideration for admission to both programs.”
The justices are expected to hear the cases in late March or early April, and many legal experts consider the Court’s subsequent decision to be the most influential in terms of race-conscious admission policies since the University of California Board of Regents v. Bakke decision, which banned racial quotas but permitted the use of race as an admissions factor if diversity was a compelling interest.
Bush’s argument will carry the most weight among the briefs sent to the Supreme Court yesterday, University of Virginia law Prof. Kim Forde-Mazrui said. The influence of the solicitor general, who files briefs in the president’s name, is often comparable to that of a tenth justice in the Court, he added.
“They will listen to his brief more then they would any other amicus. It is a voice that carries a good deal of respect among the justices,” Forde-Mazrui said.
But Forde-Mazrui added that in this case, the brief will not influence justices who have predetermined opinions on the use of race as an admissions factor.
“For the most part, it will carry little weight … given their positions on affirmative action are fairly well-developed.”
University law Prof. Evan Caminker said Supreme Court rulings have often contradicted past presidents’ opinions.
“There are many occasions when the Court rejects out of hand the position of the United States,” Caminker said.
In addition to Bush, organizations ranging from the state of Florida to the Center for New Black Leadership also filed briefs yesterday, but Levey said the number of briefs sent to the Supreme Court will have no influence on the Court’s ruling.
“Amicus briefs only influence the decision to the extent that they make good arguments,” Levey said. “The number of amicus briefs on each side will not influence the argument.”
Even well-presented legal arguments will not significantly influence the final decisions of justices with predetermined opinions on the use of racial criteria in admissions policies, said Prof. Robert Post, a legal scholar at the University of California at Berkeley.
“This is not a case of first impressions for these justices. We know how they think,” he said.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report.